Roshni Scam: HC Orders CBI Probe, Declares All Allotments Invalid

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J&K High Court – File Photo

Jammu: In a judgement with far reaching consequences, the J&K High Court on Friday ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over the probe of Rs 25,000 Crore Roshni land scam (RLS) in Jammu and Kashmir. Court also declared all allotments made under the legislation “void” from the beginning.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of the court headed by Chief Justice Gita Mittal declared the legislation as unconstitutional.

The court, also comprising Justice Rajesh Bindal, ordered that the investigation of the scam be transferred to the CBI which will file the status report within eight weeks.

The court asked the Chief Secretary to ensure uninterrupted investigation which will also be directed against those officers in whose tenures the encroachments had happened.

It said all Deputy Commissioners and Divisional Commissioners will be held for contempt of court if they do not cooperate with the investigation. A detailed judgment in the cases was awaited.

The top court, common to J&K and Ladakh, had previously termed as “shocking the state of affairs” in the manner in which the land encroachers in Jammu and Kashmir become owners of large trenches of public land by the operation of the Roshni Scheme.

“It is pointed out that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India had reported that implementation of the Roshni Scheme has resulted in a loss over Rupees Twenty Five Thousand Crores to the public exchequer,” the court had said.

The Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001 (known as the Roshni Scheme) was enacted in 2001 by the then State Government after the assent of the Governor on 9th November, 2001. The object of the Act was “to provide vesting of ownership rights to the occupants of the State land for the purposes of generating funds to finance power projects in the State”.

The enactment was repealed on 28th November 2018 by the State Administrative Council (SAC) led by then Governor, annulling the Roshni Scheme after concluding that it had not served “its purpose” and was “no longer relevant in the present context”

The principal objective of the Act was to raise resources for investment in power sector and the Government had estimated (November 2006) resource mobilization of about Rs. 25448 crores by selling 2064972 kanals state land under unauthorized occupation. However, it was pointed out by CAG (2014 report) that only Rs. 76.24 crore (24 percent) were realized against a demand of Rs. 317.54 crore raised by the end of march, 2013 in the actual transfer of 348160 kanals in the State.

“Thus, the principle objective of the Act –raising of resources for investment in the power sector was not achieved though the state has lost sizable lands,” the court had observed previously.

Of this, the major portion (3,40,091 Kanals) has been categorized as “agricultural” and hence transferred free of cost. Balance is residential use: 6949 Kanals, commercial use: 990 Kanals and Institutional use: 130 Kanals. In 547 cases covering revenue of 31.53 percent (Rs. 100.12 crore out of Rs. 317.54 crore) of the total transfers approved in the state and 0.19 per cent of land i.e. 666 kanals out of 3,48,160 kanals of land, the statutory committees had fixed the price at Rs.325.39 crore at an average rate of Rs.48.46 lakh per kanal (before allowing rebates and incentives). After allowing the discounts over the land price fixed by the statutory committees, the applicants were asked to pay only Rs.100.12 crore. Thus there was a loss of Rs.225.26 crore to the State Exchequer. Further, after transfer of 3,48,160 kanals under the Act, new encroachments are continuing unabated as area of public lands under encroachment was 20,46,972 kanals in March, 2013 as against 20,64,972 kanals in November 2006.

What High Court Order Says

CBI probe ordered in Rs 25,000 Crore Roshni Land Scam by J&K High Court.

All Roshni allotments held void ab initio

Roshni Act also declared Unconstitutional.

CBI to file a status report every 8 weeks before the Court.

The Chief Secretary was made accountable for the uninterrupted investigation.

The investigation also against officers in whose time period encroachments happened.

Divisional Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners will be held guilty of contempt in case they do not cooperate in the investigation.

What is the Roshni Act?

The Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to Occupants) Act, 2001 commonly known as ‘Roshni Act’ was passed in the year 2001. As per Roshni Act the transfer of the ownership rights of state land to its occupants was subject to the payment of a cost, as determined by the government.

The Act enacted by then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s government had set 1990 as the cutoff for encroachment on state land. The government’s target was to earn Rs 25,000 crore by transferring 20 lakh kanals of state land to existing occupants against payment at market rates. The government said the revenue generated would be spent on commissioning hydroelectric power projects, hence the name “Roshni”.

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